Obstetric Malpractice: Protecting the Most Vulnerable Patients

Childbirth is an exhilarating experience for many families. It is a time of joy, hope, and immense anticipation. However, sometimes, due to unforeseen circumstances and medical negligence, this beautiful event can quickly turn tragic. When these incidents occur, the victims deserve justice, and that’s where understanding obstetric malpractice becomes essential.

At Matzus Law, LLC, we believe in shielding the most vulnerable patients and ensuring that they get the justice they are entitled to. In this post, we aim to educate you on obstetric malpractice, its implications, legal remedies, and more.

What Constitutes Obstetric Malpractice?

Obstetric malpractice is a subcategory of medical malpractice. It refers to the negligence or wrongdoing on the part of a healthcare provider during the prenatal care period, childbirth, or even shortly after the baby’s birth.

Some common examples include:

  • Failure to Diagnose or Treat Conditions: This might pertain to conditions in the mother, like preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, or infections. If not detected and managed on time, they can lead to severe complications for both mother and baby.
  • Mishandling of Instruments: The incorrect use of forceps, vacuums, or other medical tools during delivery can cause physical harm.
  • Delay in Ordering a Cesarean Section: This might lead to prolonged labor, putting the baby at risk.
  • Failure to Monitor Fetal Distress: Not detecting or acting on signs of fetal distress can lead to birth injuries or even death.
  • Medication Errors: Administering the wrong medication or incorrect dosage can have dire consequences.

Legal Remedies Available

For those affected by obstetric malpractice, it’s essential to understand the available legal remedies. Here’s a detailed look:

Compensatory Damages

These are damages that aim to restore victims to the position they were in before the injury. They cover:

  • Medical Expenses: This includes the cost of medical treatments, surgeries, therapies, and future medical care related to the malpractice injury.
  • Lost Wages: If the malpractice results in the mother’s inability to return to work, either temporarily or permanently, she might be entitled to recover lost wages.
  • Rehabilitation Costs: This encompasses the expenses associated with therapy sessions, special equipment, or home modifications required due to the injury.
  • Pain and Suffering: This is compensation for the physical pain and emotional anguish suffered due to the malpractice. It’s more subjective and can vary based on the jury’s discretion.

Special Damages for Future Losses

In cases where the injury leads to long-term or permanent disabilities (e.g., cerebral palsy), victims can seek damages for anticipated future losses, including:

  • Future Medical Care: This covers the expected costs of treatments, medications, and therapies in the coming years.
  • Loss of Earning Capacity: If the victim’s ability to earn in the future is compromised due to the injury, compensation can be sought for potential future earnings.

Punitive Damages

Unlike compensatory damages that aim to make the victim whole, punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant for particularly egregious or reckless behavior and deter similar conduct in the future. While not as common in obstetric malpractice cases, they can be awarded in cases where the healthcare provider’s actions were exceptionally negligent or malicious.

Wrongful Death Claims

Tragically, some instances of obstetric malpractice result in the death of the mother or baby. In such situations, surviving family members can file a wrongful death claim to seek:

  • Funeral and Burial Expenses: Covering the costs associated with the deceased’s last rites.
  • Loss of Consortium: Compensation for the loss of love, companionship, care, and guidance the deceased would have provided.
  • Lost Future Earnings: Calculating the potential income the deceased would have earned had they survived.

Non-Economic Damages

These are damages for intangible losses, including:

  • Emotional Distress: The mental anguish, anxiety, depression, or trauma resulting from the malpractice.
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life: Compensation for the inability to engage in activities or hobbies previously enjoyed.

It’s crucial to note that certain states might have caps on non-economic damages, limiting the amount a plaintiff can recover.

Case Studies

Obstetric malpractice can have grave consequences for both mothers and babies. Understanding these through real-life instances can be an eye-opener, emphasizing the critical nature of medical diligence during childbirth. Below are some case studies that shed light on various facets of obstetric malpractice.

Misdiagnosed Ectopic Pregnancy

  • Scenario: A 26-year-old woman visited the ER with sharp abdominal pain. The doctor diagnosed it as a urinary tract infection without conducting an ultrasound. A week later, the woman collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. It was then discovered that she had an ectopic pregnancy, where the fetus grows outside the uterus. Due to the late diagnosis, she lost her fallopian tube.
  • Outcome: The woman filed a lawsuit against the initial treating doctor for not correctly diagnosing her condition, which resulted in physical and emotional trauma. The court awarded her damages for medical negligence.

Delayed C-Section Leading to Oxygen Deprivation

  • Scenario: A pregnant woman in labor showed signs of fetal distress, including a decelerated heart rate. The medical staff, despite these clear indications, delayed performing a C-section. The baby was born with severe brain damage due to oxygen deprivation.
  • Outcome: The family pursued a lawsuit, resulting in a multi-million-dollar award to cover lifetime care for the child, emphasizing the severe repercussions of delayed medical decisions.

Erb’s Palsy due to Mishandling during Delivery

  • Scenario: During a challenging delivery, the obstetrician applied excessive force while pulling the baby, causing the baby’s arm nerves to tear. This resulted in Erb’s Palsy, a condition where the baby could not move its arm due to nerve damage.
  • Outcome: The parents filed a malpractice lawsuit, and the court awarded them damages to cover medical bills, physical therapy, and compensatory damages for pain and suffering.

Incorrect Medication Administered

  • Scenario: A pregnant woman was mistakenly given a medication contraindicated in pregnancy due to a mix-up in patient records. This led to premature labor, and the baby suffering from various health complications.
  • Outcome: The hospital admitted its fault, and a substantial settlement was reached to ensure the child’s medical needs were catered for life.

Failure to Diagnose Gestational Diabetes

  • Scenario: A mother’s gestational diabetes went undiagnosed throughout her pregnancy. As a result, the baby was born with a significantly larger size, leading to shoulder dystocia during delivery and subsequent health issues.
  • Outcome: The family won a lawsuit against the healthcare provider for failure to diagnose and monitor the mother’s condition, which would have prompted dietary and medical interventions.

Each of these cases underscores the profound responsibilities healthcare professionals have during childbirth. Even minor oversights can lead to long-term consequences for the families involved. As such, it’s imperative for medical professionals to maintain the highest standards of care and for patients to be aware of their rights, ensuring they receive the best possible medical attention.

Contact an Experienced Obstetric Malpractice Lawyer at  Matzus Law, LLC for a Free Consultation About Your Case Today

Childbirth is a delicate procedure, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Families trust medical professionals with the safety and well-being of both the mother and child. While many healthcare providers offer exceptional care, instances of obstetric malpractice are sadly not uncommon. Recognizing the signs and understanding your rights are crucial.

At Matzus Law, LLC, we’re passionate about representing and supporting families affected by obstetric malpractice. If you believe you or a loved one has been a victim, don’t hesitate to seek justice. Contact us today for a consultation and let us help you navigate this challenging journey, ensuring the best possible outcome for your case.